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GUN OUTFIT: 8.1 OP PITCHFORK

17/11/2015

GUN OUTFIT: 8.1 OP PITCHFORK

Er wordt soms over ons gezegd dat we een neus hebben voor talent, wie dat ook heeft is ontegensprekelijk Pitchfork. Wel nu tippen één-en-dezelfde band nl. GUN OUTFIT.

What Gun Outfit do sounds secret and borderline ineffable. Like many bands to come out of Olympia since the '80s, they understand their place in rock history: their four LPs bear the mark of musicologists who know their "Bad Moon Rising" from their Bad Moon Rising, their "Kool Thing" from their "2 Kool 2 B 4-Gotten", their "Some Velvet Morning" from their Some Velvet Sidewalk. Levitating hooks and an emotional heaviness co-exist in their impressionistic songs, like the light-and-dark glow of a perpetual magic hour. As a singer, Carrie Keith (who also plays guitar) has absorbed as much from Lucinda Williams' pained rasp as from Kim Gordon's spacious monotone. And it's telling that her notably crazy-legged fellow guitarist Dylan Sharp once played in a corrosive hardcore band called Spiritual Warriors, an allusion to the surrealist filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky. The connection underscores the subtle late-capitalist critique in his plainspoken lyrics, a soft-pedalled but deeply felt ideological edge. Gun Outfit are a seemingly modest band who sound alternately chained or freed by their devotion to thinking big-picture, by their gentle insistence on life-or-death stakes.

As ever, they sound like they just wandered off the set of a country Western being shot inside a shipping container, but Dream All Over is Gun Outfit's most consistent record by some margin. With its echoing grooves, drifting landscapes, and new textures—bits of bluegrass banjo, homemade electric sitars—Dream All Over has the blue-sky sensibility of a soul-searching road trip. There's gorgeous outlaw poetry on Keith's imagistic "Legends of My Own", a tale of a woman reborn alone in a foreign land. "When I put my blanket down/ I'm going to dream all over," Keith sings; it's an inspired metaphor for the act of becoming, and the cool composure with which she draws out the line "I wear a mask but not to hide" is its own kind of empowerment.
That abstract feminism also comes through on the LP's bare, sun-staring centerpiece "Angelino". Keith's symbols of "a kingdom in ruins" and "all of the cowgirls on the losing end" are more graceful ways of saying "fuck the patriarchy," but if you listen close to them they bite. Dream All Over's incantatory folk-rock cushions pleas for the systematically oppressed, meditations on apathy, poverty, greed, slavery, death. In the survivalist's love song "In Orbit", Sharp sings "You and I/ Are not the only satellites/ Circling an uninhabitable void/ For our whole lives." At least they are together.


Gun Outfit's music has gotten slower with each release, an inversion of (or response to) how human life has evolved since their band formed nine years ago. They reject the pace of our times, where everything happens so much. When they do evoke the modern world—like the 3D-printed gun that appears in the lyrics to closer "Only Ever Over"—there is an ominous, no-future edge to it. They seem to acknowledge the planet is doomed, while drawing a strange relief from facing facts. "Oh world, what lesson do you teach?" Sharp sings on the poignant ripper "Worldly Way". "Console yourself with sadness/ Befriend your misery." It made me think of an essay by the poet Melissa Broder, in which she explores the idea that depression is the over-evolution of the mind.


Perhaps this is why Gun Outfit—a band that will validate your pain as much as it will comfort you—still has such a fervent cult following underground. Punks love Gun Outfit because punks are inherently a little shattered. It's easy to carry a heavy heart when you live in a state of constant confrontation, when "anxiety's your default," as Sharp tosses off on the relatively upbeat "Gotta Wanna". Gun Outfit understands what it is to feel unsettled, to need some calming. On "Only Ever Over", after making the grand, dour, and quietly hilarious assertion that rock'n'roll and literature are dead, Sharp sings: "Cup a little coal/ Try to make it glow/ We're going to have a fire before we go."
In a recent interview, Sharp gave one of the best definitions of punk that you're likely to hear this year—that it's broadly "about being humble and resisting the illusion that everything's fine." In this framework, Gun Outfit fit as logically alongside folk tradition as Sonic Youth, to whom they have often been compared. The latter connection seemed truer of 2010's clattering, astounding Possession Sound, which should have made Gun Outfit as popular as contemporaries like Kurt Vile or Angel Olsen. The comparison now feels more spiritual, insomuch as Gun Outfit can offer a countercultural compass of restless subterranean artists, filmmakers, bands, labels, philosophies. Dream All Over recalls the most crucial lesson of all underground rock music: become your own sound, and create a universe for it to exist in.



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